Another day, another advertising mess at Fox News.
At least five companies have pulled their ads from Sean Hannity’s primetime cable show following his comments on the Washington Post report detailing allegations that Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the vacant Alabama US Senate seat, romantically pursued several teenage girls, including a 14-year-old. On his radio show last week, Hannity defended Moore and appeared to describe the encounters as “consensual.”
Hannity took to his Fox News TV show later to clarify that he misspoke, saying that he did not mean to imply the encounter with the 14-year-old was consensual. Still, he continued to embrace and defend Moore even after some prominent Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have called for him to leave the race.
The host’s defense of Moore came just weeks after former Fox News host Megyn Kelly called out the network for creating an environment in which women are afraid to speak out about sexual misconduct.
Following Hannity’s comments, Angelo Carusone, president of progressive media watchdog site Media Matters for America, who has for months encouraged advertisers to abandon the Fox News show, tweeted several companies asking if they would still be advertising on Hannity in light of the host’s Moore coverage.
Six companies, including the popular beverage company Keurig, responded they are no longer advertising on Hannity. Though one of the advertisers, Realtor.com, still intends to advertise on the Fox News show, according to Ad Age.
Once Hannity’s social-media army caught wind of Keurig’s disavowal, some supporters filmed themselves destroying their Keurig coffee makers in retaliation. Hannity himself retweeted some of the videos and has also tweeted links to negative press coverage of the beverage company.
(For his part, Keurig CEO Bob Gambort sent a memo to employees today criticizing his company’s move to publicly communicate its Hannity decision using social media.)
The choice to fuel attacks against a former advertiser is an odd one, especially for a host—and a network—that has struggled to retain many sponsors after controversy. Hannity is, in effect, signaling to would-be advertisers that this is how they’d be treated should they decide to cut ties with Fox News.
It’s the second time this year advertisers have left Hannity en masse. A few fled in May after he relentlessly encouraged conspiracy theories about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. And that came just a month after more than two dozen advertisers left Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show following sexual harassment allegations against him. Largely due to the ad boycott, Fox News fired O’Reilly.
There’s no indication that Hannity’s ongoing advertising exodus will reach the point that O’Reilly’s did. Still, his fueling of fans to admonish advertisers probably won’t help. Fox News dropped a whopping 17% in ad revenue last quarter compared to the same period a year before. While the US presidential election was partly to blame, the network’s cable rivals, CNN and MSNBC, lost just 1% and gained 2%, respectively.
Fox News has a genuine advertising problem on its hands, and smashing coffee makers isn’t going to solve it.